Ms Susan Gasson

Higher Degree by Research Advisor Development Coordinator, James Cook University

Susan’s research focuses on research education and development, with interests in research collaboration and employability.  Adopting qualitative approaches including narrative inquiry her research has benefited from years spent working in the higher education sector, and building strong national and global networks.

Her most recent research publications have focused on a Collaborative Research Culture Framework and it application in different contexts including: research writing, doctoral studies and support for the participation of women in higher education. Her current research is exploring Early Career Researcher pathways.

She has co-authored with collaborators in Europe, North America and Asia. Her interest in researcher development has led to the creation and co-creation of a number of online resources including interactive and integrated forms, online communities, and Blackboard and WordPress sites.

Encouraging Wellness in PhD Studies: A Case Study

The well being of graduate students remains an area of concern. Data suggests up to one in three graduate students experience depression and anxiety during doctoral studies (Levecque, 2017). This presentation outlines key causes of that depression and anxiety, and strategies for overcoming them.

In a global survey of 6,000 PhD students reported found that respondents felt their lives were out of balance as they wrestled with concerns about job prospects and maintaining a work life balance (Woolston, 2019). These two items also topped a similar survey conducted in 2017. Concerns raised were related to:

  • unmet expectations associated with publication, and progress to completion,
  • instances of hurtful behavior that demoralized students, and derailed their career expectations, and
  • PhD student preferences for an academic pathway were not aligned with changes in the job market.

JCU responses to these concerns were provided to students and advisors. For students, induction and ongoing professional development is offered to ensure students feel part of a large community, and are aware of the services and support available should they need it. Content of offerings ranges from capacity building required for the conduct of a research project, to development of transferrable skills for employability. These offerings are provided centrally, within key Cohort programs, and across discipline specific colleges and lab groups.

JCU’s HDR Advisor professional development program is delivered in the form of a community of practice. In one hour zoom sessions advisors come together to share practices on key areas of concern including contingency planning, writing, and collaborative research. Advisors are introduced to a range of research services partners, and key university values such as respectful relationships, to ensure students and advisors can realise agreed doctoral research expectations.